In April 2022, divorce laws in the UK were changed for the first time in 50 years. It meant that married couples were able to start divorce proceedings without apportioning the blame for the breakdown of their marriage. This new, no -fault legislation makes it easier for people to seek a divorce and legally terminate a relationship they no longer want to be a part of.
Increase in no-fault divorce applications
The change has sparked a large influx in divorce applications, with the Ministry of Justice revealing that 33,566 were made between April and June 2022, the majority of which falling under the new no-fault divorce legislation. Compared to the same period in 2021, this is an increase of 22%.
Of the 33,234 no-fault applications made during the spring period, almost 13,000 were filed in April – 10,207 were sole applications and 2,771 joint applications – a change that was also introduced by the new law.
However, while the law change has removed a key barrier in divorce proceedings, the process is now longer than it used to be due to the minimum 20 week ‘reflection period’ required before a conditional order can be applied for.
How have divorce laws changed?
Previously, couples could only divorce if the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’ due to 5 facts i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation, desertion or 5 years separation. If the divorce was based on unreasonable behaviour the person applying for the divorce would have had to cite reasons of bad behaviour and therefore alleging fact.
However, a no-fault divorce is an amicable approach to separation and it is a lot easier than before. There is no requirement to place blame on the former spouse to prove that the marriage has broken down. A divorce application can be applied for jointly which was not possible prior to April 2022.
You can now apply for a conditional order for divorce 20 weeks after the =acknowledgement has been filed, with the final order application allowed after 6 weeks and 1 day after the date f the conditional order. The final order should be applied within 12 months of obtaining the conditional order as otherwise an explanation will need to be provided to the Court for the delay.
Family court backlog
The rise in no-fault divorce applications is also adding to the huge backlog of cases that were added to by the COVID pandemic. The backlog issue has affected the family court system for a number of years, pre-dating the delays caused by COVID, and even with courts now operating at full physical capacity, the number of cases still to be seen remains as high as ever.
The delays in the family courts have increased at least by a quarter in the last year. This has increased delays in the divorce cases being completed by 42.7 weeks compared to 34.4 weeks in 2020-2021. The delays will only increase unless the courts are able to fund more resources to deal with the backlogs.
Find out more about the new divorce laws
Applying for a divorce can be extremely stressful and it’s a process that needs to be handled with care and consideration. It’s something our divorce solicitors fully understand at Saracens and we’re here to make things as easy as possible. Call us today on 020 3588 3500 to discuss your situation in more detail and we’ll be happy to help.